By Miss Ijeoma Okereke (Peer Educator), Gbagada Girls Secondary School, Bariga
The need for youths education, particularly formal education, is recognized the world over, Nigeria inclusive. Its awareness and importance are drawn to the youths through various lectures, symposia and seminars organized by adults.
With the emphasis on youth formal education, the issue of pre-pubertal challenges, particularly reproductive health issues are totally neglected. The teenagers are therefore left to cope with these challenges without proper knowledge or skills. This often results in unmitigated early sexual activity among teenagers with its consequent health and socio economic problems. One of the major health risks or early sexual activity by teenagers in Sexually Transmitted Diseases such as gonorrhoea, genital herpes, syphilis, trichomoniasis and most deadly, AIDS. HIV infected partner is one of the commonest means of transmission.
Apart from STDs/AIDs, pregnancy is another common negative result of teenage sexual activity. If she is a student, once pregnant, she would be expelled from school, putting a temporary and at times a permanent halt to her educational advancement. A situation that often brings shame and embarrassment to the teen and her parents. Take as an example a case of a sexually active school girl with multiple sexual partners who had been having unprotected sex. One day she fell sick, the parents took her to the hospital. The doctor after physical examination ordered some laboratory investigations. The laboratory result later confirmed the girl pregnant and HIV-infected. Unfortunately, the girl could not even identify the person responsible for the pregnancy among her multiple sexual partners.
However, she placed was under intensive medical care and in due course, she put to bed but unfortunately the baby only survives for a few days. Now that she’s HIV positive, none of her sexual partners would want to be associated with her again. Furthermore, her days are numbered and sooner or later, full blown AIDS will set in to be followed by inevitable death! It’s doubtful if the girl would ever get married in her life.
From this experience, it’s O.K. for teenagers to say “NO” to sex. Unfortunately, many teenagers who want to say “NO” to sex neither have the skills nor courage to do so as a result of their inadequate or non-existent knowledge of reproductive health and life planning issues such as self-esteem, personal values, goal setting and decision making skills. Teenagers should set good goals for themselves in life and work hard to achieve them. Should this be done, reckless sexual behaviours will be avoided or at least curtailed and sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS will be involved.
As stated earlier, AIDS has no known cure as at now, but can be prevented. The preventive measures include:
- sexual abstinence
- keeping to one faithful sex partner
- use of safer sex measures e.g. condom
However, for teenagers the best preventive option is ABSTINENCE. It must also be pointed out that HIV and AIDS don’t discriminate between teenagers and adults as long as the preventive rules are not respected.
Lastly, adolescents should not only be provided with reproductive health education to be knowledgeable about the various developmental changes occurring in them at this stage but also with adequate information and skills on life planning issues to help them develop the desired responsible sexual attitudes and behaviours that would contribute to their positive development. After all, adults often refers to us “leaders of tomorrow”.